It was the autumn of 2001 and I was wading through the countless price lists, invoices and special offers that had just spilled onto the dispensary desk from my in-tray.
I reached for the practice formulary that had just been revamped for the fourth time in as many months and in doing so spilled the contents of half a cup of coffee over the avalanche of papers and all over my efforts to order drugs.
This was how - in a moment of self preservation - the website www.prescribing.org was conceived.
Creating the right service
Now, on any normal day I hate computers. However, I realised the immense potential that an online ordering website could have in reducing the workload of running a highly cost- effective dispensary.
Through this website I could choose the drugs I wanted and the system would automatically order my drugs in the most cost-effective manner.
My stock levels would be automatically controlled and formularies edited online and discounts available would be stored and analysed for me.
Within four months I had launched www.prescribing.org for surgeries within the west Norfolk region and within a year it had expanded to more than 100 surgeries.
Five years on and we now have over 800 dispensing surgeries ordering through us with 400 different dispensing surgeries visiting online every day, culminating in 50,000 website hits every week and millions of pounds of orders every month.
Membership of the site is offered as a free service to all NHS dispensing practices. While it uses the English and Welsh drug tariff, we have members from across the UK.
I have successfully managed to turn my concept of online dispensary management into a reality and am confident that this online assistant will develop even further during 2008.
One of the greatest additional benefits of the website is that it allows dispensers to get on with the more important task of providing a high-quality service for the patients.
Dr Julian Brown is a dispensing GP in Norfolk
Email email@example.com, or call 0844 991 0064 about membership or beta testing any of the new systems
Contact Jacki Buist at GPdispensing@haymarket.com or (020) 8267 4865
The benefits of online ordering and prescribing.org
Order dispensary drugs
Using short-line suppliers (those without the full range) can reduce dispensary expenditure - savings of 30 per cent on total expenditure and 50 per cent on generic purchases are possible. Prescribing.org uses three short-line suppliers, with prices and service levels monitored by an independent pharmacist.
The site also features Pfizer's preferred ordering interface for single distribution through UniChem, and both UniChem and AAH have recently become fully integrated as full-line wholesalers on the site. A new TEVA ordering system will be available later this year allowing our users to enjoy the Ultimate discount scheme from the largest generic company worldwide.
A preferred specials supplier has also been arranged.
Analyse discount schemes
Keeping track of all the different discount schemes can be difficult, so the website allows you to store the discounts and also to compare rival deals directly. The manufacturer discounts, along with any wholesaler discounts, are factored into any prices displayed on the website to improve accuracy when comparing prices to our short-line suppliers.
In addition members will enjoy centrally enhanced discounts through 2008.
Analyse dispensing patterns
EMIS users can enjoy some advanced analytical features on the site, with surgeries being able to upload their monthly prescribing data and EMIS stock levels to analyse their dispensing trends and generate automatic orders.
Compatibility with other non-EMIS computer systems is currently in development and will be available soon.
Generate your formulary
It is essential for every practice to have a formulary, and your surgery's own formulary can be maintained through the website. It can be auto-generated whenever it is required and will be compared to the centrally maintained prescribing.org formulary, which regularly cross-compares the cost of alternative drugs.
Through the dispensing forum, GPs can discuss all areas of dispensing and share from one another's experiences.
This area is being moved on to the main launch pad to ensure lively debate within the security of a password-protected arena.
More to come
With three full-time computer programmers working on the website, multiple new applications are in hand for later this year.
These include the intelligent ordering system (initially just for UniChem customers), the patient-orientated repeat prescription system (DrugWizard) and the new barcoding safety system SafeScan2.
The DDA is the only organisation that ensures the views of dispensing practices are heard by the government and key negotiating bodies. We also provide telephone advice to members and essential updated information via our website, and email alerts. To find out more call Jeff Lee on (01751) 430835 or visit www.dispensingdoctor.org.uk
The DDA does not necessarily support or endorse the opinions or information contained on this page.